Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"A Certain Restlessness"

I saw an interview with Craig Ferguson. He's a pretty interesting fellow. He became an American citizen by choice, he's hosting a trendy late-night talk show, he's a recovering alcoholic, he's learned to be a pilot (a "facing your fears" decision) he's written books and screenplays, he's acted on stage, screen and television and he was a drummer in a punk rock band back in Scotland (Yeah, but I bet he never wrote the longest, most disjointed sentence in the world like I just did!) The correspondent doing the interview asked him if all of that indicated a "certain restlessness." Craig said he was sure it indicated a "certain restlessness." And then I exhaled. Finally, there's a term for that which plagues me. Finally there's someone else on earth as scattered as I am. I felt a bit less freakish...not much, but a little.

"So something like a Swiss Army knife, yeah, that's my life."
I've tested the waters in many different oceans. I've set and fell short of many goals. Some of them led me down some fascinating roads where I met many characters that I'll never forget. Some ended me with me in dark places and meeting people I wish I could forget. For about 2 months I was a disc jockey on a country music radio station (at the time I knew as much about country music as I know about brain surgery.) I explored everything from journalism to psychology to teaching as career choices. None of them stuck. I grew my hair very long. I later cut most of it off (and the Lord's taking the rest.) I started wearing earrings. I now wear a wedding ring. I used to live in a crash pad with a Labrador Retriever and usually had a week or two's worth of empty beer cans lining my shower. I would use a towel until it stood up by itself. I now vacuum a lot, consider yardwork a hobby and sit out clean towels for the lady of the house when she's had a bad day. I like putting on a suit and taking my bride to dinners that are more events than meals. I also like putting on my favorite flip-flops, building a fire in the backyard, chilling an obscene amount of beer and putting animal flesh (usually a pig or some part of one!) on that fire and drinking beer until it's done (the meat, not the beer,,though the meat and the beer are often done around the same time.) I love jazz. I love Doc Watson. I love martinis and lobster. I like iced tea and collards. I'm constantly trying to get started on the next great American novel and I've decided I want to fulfill a childhood obsession and drive tractor trailers for a living. I'm 48 years old, can smell 50 from where I'm standing and seriously wanting to know "JUST WHO IN THE HELL AM I???????????"

I worry that the real victim in all of this is the woman who was brave enough to become my wife. I often find myself apologetic with her that I'm not like other husbands. God bless her, she reminds me that she didn't want "other husbands" she wanted me and enjoys watching me try to experience so many things. I think it's a nice way for her to say "Sweetie, I knew you were nuts when I married you."

So you see why I took great comfort from Craig Ferguson defining a "certain restlessness" as a healthy infliction. He said that it's a hindrance to give yourself one restricts you from trying as much as you can in this life. So, I reckon I'll just "cruise along, always searching for songs, not a lawyer a thief or a banker..." or perhaps all three...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

UNITED States?

I'm breaking my number one rule...sort of. I can't take credit for my number one rule. It's one of the few lessons I learned from my father. He once told me "Don't ever discuss religion or politics with anyone. There's no right or wrong answers and folks just get mad." But I'm not really discussing politics. I'm discussing our reaction to politics.

When I was a teenager, some zealots in Iran decided to storm our embassy and take 52 Americans hostage. Our country was immediately united in our resolve and there were yellow ribbons, prayer services and we presented a truly united front, determined to bring these 52 Americans back home. We didn't care who the president of our United States was at the time and whether or not we agreed with anything else he did with regards to domestic issues. We wanted those Americans back home and prayed for them and our president ever single day. For the first time in my young life, I saw the way our country could bristle up like a pissed off yard dog fending off the mailman. The kind of scowl my parents said we carried back in the 40's. I was proud to be a part of it. Being the lover of southern rock & roll that I was (and am) I relished in the fact that one of the poster children of my favorite music - Charlie Daniels- wrote a "Go to hell, we're Americans!" song during that long nightmare. (" just go to lay your hands on a Tennessee Vols fan, and I think you're gonna' find they understand.") The hostages eventually came back home. One of them even spoke at my baccalaureate when - by some miracle - I graduated from high school.

Fast forward to a beautiful September morning in September of 2001 when the world up and went to hell again. By now, I'm grown, married and - in my mind - living the American dream of home ownership, tax paying and voting. In the aftermath of that awful day, I was sure I'd see the same sort of "fourth and one and we're going for it dammit!" mentality. And I did......for about a year and half. Soon followed a war not only against the region and people who perpetrated the death of more than 3,000 folks, but also against some other country that may or not have been a definite target in the "war on terror." Seemingly, overnight, we went from being "Us" to being "me and you." I want to blame it on one man (whose middle initial might or might not be "W") but then, again, I'd be breaking rule number one. (But I do think, if we'd kept on chasing the real fox in the hen house, Osama Bin Laden would've been fish food many years earlier.)

Shortly after September, 2001, a co-worker saw my truck in the parking deck. I had an American flag in my back window. He smiled with delight and said "Oh! I thought you were a democrat!" I said "No, I'm not democrat." He said "Well thank God you ARE a Republican!" I said ", I'm not a republican either." The look on his face resembled that of someone who might've actually encountered Sasquatch right there in the parking lot. I realized then that we had become a "house divided."

I think that Jesus Christ was the first to use that phrase "house divided." Then along came an American statesman named Abraham Lincoln quoting it in one of the most famous speeches ever given. Strange that I reference "statesmen" in that sentence. Because the man who is as much a father to me as my biological father, the retired principal who often speaks wisely (and is my bride's father) told me recently "we no longer have STATESMEN running this country. We have politicians...and that's dangerous." I read a book that someone on that "W" guy's staff wrote. He inferred that people in power in this country are no longer doing what's best for us. They're swallowed up by the "perpetual campaign." They do whatever will get them re-elected. I think THAT'S dangerous.

Last night, as I'm prone to do April through August, I had the pleasure of working at a minor-league baseball game. I also had the pleasure of getting two little guys' some autographs from the Atlanta Braves' 2011 first round draft choice (one of them on a batting practice ball I'd procured for him.) They were both giddy and I told them both to hang onto those autographs because one day they'd be glad they did. I felt very American. And Feeling "American" really shouldn't get much more complicated than that.